Speaking of hospitality, during the 6th Annual HR in Hospitality Conference & Expo in San Francisco last month,Chip Conley, the founder of the hotel chain Joie de Vivre, said that most leaders have strong IQs, but far fewer have EQs—emotional intelligence—to match, and that can be detrimental to business.


  • 1) Emotions are more contagious than viruses, so that leader-induced anxiety, anger and frustration eventually reaches the customers, making CEOs not so much chief executive officers as what he calls “chief emotion officers” who act as “emotional thermostats” for the entire organization.
  • 2) Emotions left unchecked can hinder good decision making. “When you make any decisions in that emotional state of reactivity… we lose 10 to 15 IQ points,” he said, noting that some of us can’t afford to lose that many points.
  • 3) Leaders who have low EQs lack the ability to help their associates find meaning in their profession. Conley quotes Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly as saying that “When we make decisions as a company, we ask ourselves what’s going to be the effect on line-level employees facing the customers.” Because the emotional tenor of those employees is what is going to leave the primary impression on customers.
  • 4)  Perhaps most importantly, leaders with low EQs don’t recognize guests’ (or clients’ )expectations and needs–the needs they may not even know they have.

Wouldn’t  this be a novel approach to leadership and customer satisfaction for the law business? What would happen if law leaders focused on trying to to help their lawyers experience a meaningful career and address the distress that plagues them– the ones who are on the front lines interacting with clients every day–with the ultimate goal of also improving client service and satisfaction?

What does that have to do with bottom-line profitability?

Conley’s talk brings to mind one of Jordan Furlong’s recent blog entries, “Pricing to the Client Experience,” from which I quote liberally below:

The nature and value of how your client receives your services can be the basis of your pricing… Law, as usual, lags behind other sectors in this regard. In any other service business, how you are served is a differentiator, if not a full-scale driver, of pricing.

If the way you treat your clients is cheerful, responsive, quick, inquisitive, memorable, and genuinely focused on their interests, you can charge for that. In the legal marketplace, in fact, it’s such a huge differentiator that you can probably charge a lot for it. You can charge for hiring people obsessed with client satisfaction. You can charge for returning calls within 24 hours. You can charge for giving clients 24/7 access to their files and billing status. You can charge for entering your clients’ birthdays into your CRM system and sending them a card on the big day. You can charge for asking, “Is there anything else, anything at all, that we can help you with today?” For crying out loud, you can even charge for not charging by the hour! These are real client benefits. They make clients’ lives easier or happier. And most lawyers don’t offer them.

The price of almost every lawyer product … will decrease over the coming decade. But the price of a lawyer’s service — the personal, customized, convenient, anticipatory, strategic, counseling, caring way in which the client is treated and their interests looked after — will hold steady and will very probably rise.

We’re all smart and knowledgeable and hard-working. But we’re not all great at service. We don’t all care the same about our clients. We don’t all engineer our billing methods and matter management and client communication so as to maximize the client experience… Markets reward scarcity. Great client experience in the legal market is scarce.

How might we make this terrible and audacious transformation from being the epitome of righteous rectitude in knowledge delivery to a client-oriented, empathic service provider?

Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude, which we have mentioned before, says Southwest and companies such as Apple, Google and Ritz-Carlton are great organizations to illustrate the idea of hiring for attitude and training for skill, despite the attitudes and activities required at each company being quite different.  These are organizations who know who they are, know their clients inside and out, and who don’t let anything keep them from delivering first-rate service. Again we see Southwest Airlines.  And again we see a well-respected player in hospitality–Ritz-Carlton.

We can’t turn down the sheets or leave chocolates, but there’s a raft of other things lawyers can do to make their clients feel comfortable and appreciated.  Are you in the hospitality frame of mind? It could well be a profitable one.